Note:  This is the third of a series of posts I am writing about online dating.  If you’ve missed the previous two, be sure to check them out before reading this one:  Your Expectation, Your Profile.

As I stressed in the previous two posts, first impression is vital in dating.  It is especially so for online dating because of how efficient it is to meet people over the Internet.  Efficiency translates to high volume, and the best way to stand out from the noise is to create the best first impression of all the people in the dating pool.

The absolute first impression is, of course, your profile but that’s static.  It is important to follow up with a second, more fluid first impression, and that’s the very first email you send to a potential date.  Contrary to the advice I gave on how to write a great profile (lengthy but packed with punches), a great first email should be short, sweet, and enticing.

Why the difference?  Let me answer that with a couple of questions.  Have you ever received an email from a total stranger, and the email reads like a novel?  What do you usually do with the email after skimming a few lines?  I don’t know about you, but I usually don’t give my time as generously to reading emails from people I don’t already know, and I tend to hit the delete button more often.  The same is true for emails I get from people on online dating sites.

So what constitutes a good opening email?  As always, an example speaks volume, so here is one that caught my attention immediately:

“Hmmm. You seem challenging and provocative. In my book, that’s good. We may share a few things in common, particularly an interest in snapping photos and a degree of intellectual snobbery. Let’s swap photos; or trade barbs; or just have a cup of joe.

There are several reasons this email caught my attention.  First, he was able to convey a lot in less than the minute it took for me to read it.  Second, he showed that he paid attention to my profile by highlighting a few things I had written in my profile (photography, intellect, and coffee).  Third, he established some commonality between the two of us, and that automatically triggered interest on my end.  Fourth, the email conveyed a sense of mystery, and that’s enticing.

On the other hand, here is how NOT to write the first email:

“I am looking for a special friend, someone who can be really close to heart. Someone with whom you can talk and discuss your problems. Someone who is there for you when you need emotional support, and someone whom you can always keep happy and smiling. Problem is its too tough finding good people these days.

“I don’t have lot of friends in the Bay Area. I saw your profile and thought it over, and I really think we can be great as friends for a start. Do you think we can try and be friends??”

Why is this email so bad?  First, it’s long and whinny!  Second, there are grammatical errors all over the email!  Third, the email reeks of desperation — women are definitely not attracted to men who don’t have friends!  Fourth, he basically restated the obvious — many people on dating websites are looking for that special someone — so the words are basically wasted space!  Fifth, the email was all about what that person wanted instead of what I want or what interests me.

In summary, the opening email should be short yet thoughtful, expressive and inviting.  Remember, just as the first impression in the offline world is made within the first 90 seconds, the first impression in the online world is made in even less time!  So make every word count!

If you missed my other posts on online dating, be sure to check them out:

Part I – Online Dating 101: Your Expectation
Part II – Online Dating 101: Your Profile
Part IV – Online Dating 101: Your First Meeting